Skip to main content


In the wildly entertaining 1969 novel Slaughterhouse Five, written by Kurt Vonnegut, the time-travelling war hero Billy Pilgrim is transported to the planet Tralfamadore where he and his mate, the voluptuous pornstar Montana Wildhack, are enclosed in a zoo and observed by the alien race, who watch them copulate through little peepholes. O, the virtues of voyeurism! But that is neither here nor there. The fact is, Montana wears a heart-shaped locket around her neck in memory of her mother. On it are inscribed these words:

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom always to tell the difference."

The Serenity Prayer, as it is called, is attributed to the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and has been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs. In Vonnegut's book, Wildhack's mother was an alcoholic. But you don't need to "have a problem" to apply this wisdom to life; nor should you. Science is at last verifying the applicability of the virtue of acceptance to everyday events.

This according to new research from Johns Hopkins University, which appeared in a paper published in March 2015 on the website of the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science:

In the traditional view of control, a person takes action to ensure success in both the near and long terms. Primary control is gaining mastery by striving for goals and asserting one's will upon circumstances. But it turns out that “secondary control,” usually given short shrift in both the scientific literature and Western attitudes, and described as acceptance that life can’t always be bent to human will, is the wise choice in many of life's situations. Because most of daily living is simply "out of one's hands" as the saying goes, compelling the religiously-minded to commend her fate to a Higher Power with the words, "Thy will be done!" A saying for every season.

As assistant professor Eric Helzer, who was involved in the study, notes: "You don't have control over a lot of situations, at work or elsewhere in your life. But you do have control over your response to it, over the meaning you assign to the event."

Taking a big-picture, reflective view of life could "succeed in promoting feelings of daily happiness, warmth, and peace," even in the face of negative experiences. Gaining mastery over your circumstances doesn't mean conquering them. And acceptance is not a passive, last-resort strategy. It adds to a richer notion, characterized by greater satisfaction, of what it means to live a full life.

Each method of control, primary as well as secondary, operates in a unique way and contributes significantly to a person's sense of well-being. The wisdom, as written between those big titties, is telling the difference.

And since we're swapping sayings, remember: "Practice makes perfect."


Popular posts from this blog


I was watching the TV show Naked and Afraid last night as I sometimes do. The show teams together two strangers, a man and a woman, who attempt to survive on their own for a period of 21 days in some remote and isolated region. Some of the locales featured include the Australian Outback, the Amazonian rainforest and the African Savanna. The man may have a military background, or be an adventurist or deep sea fisherman. Sometimes he's an ordinary dude who lives with mom. The woman is a park ranger or extreme fitness enthusiast or "just a mom" herself. Sometimes the couple quarrel, sometimes one or both "tap out" (quit) in a fit of anger or illness. It is satisfying to see them actually make it through the challenge and reach their extraction point. The victors are usually exhausted, emaciated, begrimed and bare ass naked. 

Even more satisfying, at least for me, is the occasional ass shot, snuck in at strategic intervals to boost viewership, of course. It's co…


There is no such thing as screw-ups.

Case in point. My excellent friend Deej comes over to help me beautify the garden. He immediately dives in, crouching down on his knees and weed whacking with his bare hands. Before I can say yay or nay, he proceeds to remove a huge clump of daisy greens from the oblong patch of Earth adjacent to the driveway. The area instantly looks bare. Like the back of Woody Allen's head. Smoothing out the soil and shaking his head Deej mutters to himself "I fucked it up!" over and over again. We try everything. Planting succulents in the daisy's place. Covering it with rocks. But still the area looks barren. And every time you water it the water trickles down onto the sidewalk in the absence of roots to hold it in place. It's getting dark so we go back inside. The next day I return to the spot with a clear perspective and remove all the other daisies, leaving only rose bushes and the succulents that DJ planted, and depositing 10 bags of m…


This is not a commentary on the latest fitness fad. Because if it were, the little I'd have to say on the subject would be largely derogatory. I simply cannot see see how crouching in a stuffy, dark, cramped room surrounded by sweat-drenched strangers while expending a lot of energy and going nowhere deserves to be called fun, though aficionados tell me it is (fun). I tell these aficionados that if no pain no gain is your thing, discomfort can be had for a lot cheaper than $50 an hour. Try plucking your nose hairs. What we don't do for the sake of beauty. This endurance heir to the Stairmaster and elliptical is all hype. There's a name for the type who likes to run (or otherwise move) in place. It's called a hamster. 

This reminds me of a joke my father likes to tell, about what living with a woman turns a guy into. You go from a wolf to a sheep to a hamster. After nearly 40 years of married life, my dad has added cockroach to the zoological lineage. Which I'm sure …